Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Early review: Guidebook to Murder, by Lynn Cahoon

In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store–Coffee, Books, and More–open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?

When Jill’s elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily’s gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill–along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit–especially if it gets her closer to South Cove’s finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she’s on the case–and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently. 


Guidebook to Murder takes the well-known "unexpected inheritance" plot and gives it almost too many twists in the form of additional "treasures," a mayor and developer intent on condemning Jill's new house to put up condos, and several other possible claimants to Miss Emily's estate. Throw in an attractive but possibly married police detective, a series of threats, a sudden disappearance, and tensions around Jill's coffee shop and bookstore, and poor Jill is suddenly up to her ears in troubles.

Despite its plethora of complications, the plot works pretty well overall, and author Lynn Cahoon succeeded in pulling the wool over my eyes regarding the main villain's identity. I say "main villain," because the author doesn't make trying to pin all the nefarious deeds (of which there are a fair few) on a single person, making the challenge of identifying the perpetrator(s) more difficult for the fictional sleuths -- and more fun for the reader!

I did think Jill's book-and-coffeeshop would feature more prominently in the mystery, and it's one of the things that drew me to the book in the first place. I'm hoping the shop will play a bigger role in the next mystery, but I understand why this book couldn't revolve around it. Jill has more than enough on her plate just dealing with her inheritance, making urgently-needed repairs to the house, and trying to find a murderer; it simply makes sense that her shop has to take a backseat for a while.

My only real peeve about the novel, other than the sheer unlikelihood of so many unexpected things occurring so close together, is that Cahoon resorts to a common and overused ploy to increase romantic tension: the long misunderstanding that could be easily cleared up with a single conversation. Frankly, that trope drives me nuts; a reasonable, rational adult would simply confront whatever issue is causing the tension  and talk about it. But that's a personal preference, and since the relationship isn't the main focus of the book, I didn't find it as annoying as I would have in a romance novel. Aside from that one complaint, the budding romance is sweet and charming, with plenty of  potential for future books.

Guidebook to Murder is entertaining and fun despite its minor flaws. I like Jill, her aunt Jackie, her friend Amy, and Detective Greg King, and I look forward to seeing what happens to them next. Most important, the mystery kept me guessing almost to the end, and that's not always easy to do! I'm already looking forward to the next  book in the Tourist Trap series, Mission to Murder, due out July 31.

Final note: Guidebook to Murder will be released tomorrow (4/17/14) as an ebook. At this time, the Tourist Trap mystery series is only being published in ebook format by eKensington. I'm surprised, because I think the series would also do well in paperback. ETA (4/18/14): Apparently the book is available as a trade paperback as well as an ebook. Either I goofed, or the paperback version didn't show up on Amazon until after I searched it and prepared this post. (Thanks to Bea of Bea's Book Nook for finding the paperback link on Amazon!)

*   *   *

Rating: 3.5 stars

Category: Cozy mystery 
Series: Tourist Trap Mystery #1
Publisher: Kensington
Release date: 4/17/14
Book source: review e-copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley

About the author:  Lynn Cahoon is the author of the Tourist Trap Mystery series, several romances, and The Council, a paranormal romance series. An Idaho native, her stories focus around the depth and experience of living big in a small town. Currently, she’s living in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. She lives with her husband and four fur babies. (adapted from Goodreads biography)

Connect with the author:   
Website/Blog      Facebook      Twitter (@LynnCahoon)     Goodreads      


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bookish Stuff I'd Love to Own

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like to Own.

So I'm not exactly lusting after all of these, but I would really like to own them (not necessarily in this order):

  •  A proper home library.  I feel funny listing this one, because my study comes close already: I've got Billy bookshelves on two (small) walls, plus a third slim one on the window wall. But what I'd really love is to finish a good-size room in the basement and line it with bookshelves, preferably in cherry or maybe honey oak. And have french doors leading out to a nice patio instead of the ugly sliding glass door that's down there now. Soft, rich carpet on the floor, nice comfy armchairs or maybe a padded chaise... Bliss.
Something like this: Neil Gaiman's library. Bright, comfy, and packed with books.
  • A treehouse. For reading outdoors. Preferably without spiders and mosquitoes.  Or maybe a porch swing.

Treehouse Point hotel in Washington state

  • A fantasy signpost for my garden. (Also a gardener, but that's another wish list.) With signs pointing to Narnia, Rivendell, the Shire, Hogwarts, Tortall, Benden Weyr, the Harper Hall, Haven, the Emerald City, Prydain, Camelot, and Neverland.

  • A Little Free Library. I can't have one of these (the property owner's association and local ordinances would probably prohibit it), but if I could, I would. Preferably one shaped and painted to look like a TARDIS.

  •  A wand from Alivan's. Forget those resin movie-replica wands. A real wand must be made of wood. This is the one we gave Robin for her graduation (yes, it looks like Hermione's.) Someday, I'd love one of my own, just for fun. (Maybe the Red Cedar/Oak wand, or the Rowan. You can see the whole collection at Alivan's.)
  • A Hogwarts class ring. I don't think an official one exists, and the only handmade ones I've found aren't as good as this photo -- but it would be awesome.
  • Pajamas that combine these pants and this shirt. (Sorry, no links available; it seems these exact items are no longer available.)

  •  A Kindle case that looks like a book. I like my magnetized Kindle case that automatically turns on my Kindle when I open it. But these are beautifu and elegant:

The Names upon the Harp - Eithlinn (P.J. Lynch)

  • Bookmarks. Magic ones, that appear whenever and wherever I need one. Because I can never find them when I want one...

Monday, April 14, 2014

SYNC Titles for This Summer

Heads-up: May is approaching, and that means the start of SYNC isn't far away.  If you're not familiar with SYNC, it's a program which gives away -- free! -- two YA audiobooks a week during the summer, usually one contemporary title and one classic. You download the books using the (free) Overdrive Media Console, which can then upload them to your audio device. SYNC is sponsored by Audiofile; its partners include a whole bunch of audiobook producers. 

Come summer, look for links and reminders on my Saturday News & Notes posts.

Here's the lineup. Which books are you excited for?  I might actually "read" H. G. Wells' The Time Machine if I can listen to Derek Jacobi reading it. He's an excellent narrator. I'm also excited for Code Name Verity, The Murder at the Vicarage, The Hiding Place (which I've been meaning to read for about 2 decades now), Peter and the Starcatchers (Jim Dale, yay!), and The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline. There are several I'm not familiar with, so I'll have to scope them out before SYNC season gets underway.


May 15 – May 21
WARP: THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN by Eoin Colfer, Narrated by Maxwell Caulfield (Listening Library)
THE TIME MACHINE by H.G. Wells, Narrated by Derek Jacobi (Listening Library)

May 22 – May 28
CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge, Narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden (Harper Audio)
OEDIPUS THE KING by Sophocles, Performed by Michael Sheen and a full cast (Naxos AudioBooks)

May 29 – June 4
CONFESSIONS OF A MURDER SUSPECT by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, Narrated by Emma Galvin (Hachette Audio)
THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Richard E. Grant (Harper Audio)

June 5 – June 11
ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill, Narrated by Meredith Mitchell (Tantor Audio)
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare, Performed by Richard Dreyfuss, JoBeth Williams, Stacy Keach, Kelsey Grammer, and a full cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

June 12 – June 18
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein, Narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell (Bolinda Audio)
THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boom, John Sherrill, Elizabeth Sherrill, Narrated by Bernadette Dunne (christianaudio)

June 19 – June 25
I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU by Ally Carter, Narrated by Renée Raudman (Brilliance Audio)
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery, Narrated by Colleen Winton (Post Hypnotic Press)

June 26 – July 2
FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick, Narrated by Noah Galvin (Hachette Audio)
OCTOBER MOURNING: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman, Narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Christina Traister (Brilliance Audio)

July 3 – July 9
TORN FROM TROY by Patrick Bowman, Narrated by Gerard Doyle (Post Hypnotic Press)
PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Narrated by Jim Dale (Brilliance Audio)

July 10 – July 16
CLAUDETTE COLVIN: Twice Toward Justice by Philip Hoose, Narrated by Channie Waites (Brilliance Audio)
WHILE THE WORLD WATCHED by Carolyn Maull McKinstry with Denise George, Narrated by Felicia Bullock (Oasis Audio)

July 17 – July 23
THE CASE OF THE CRYPTIC CRINOLINE by Nancy Springer, Narrated by Katherine Kellgren (Recorded Books)
THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES II by Arthur Conan Doyle, Narrated by David Timson (Naxos AudioBooks)

July 24 – July 30
HEADSTRONG by Patrick Link, Performed by Deidrie Henry, Ernie Hudson, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine and Scott Wolf (L.A. Theatre Works)
THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson, Narrated by Scott Brick (Tantor Audio)

July 31 – August 6
DIVIDED WE FALL by Trent Reedy, Narrated by Andrew Eiden (Scholastic Audio)
THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane, Narrated by Frank Muller (Recorded Books)

August 7 – August 13
LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS by Ben Lesser, Narrated by Jonathan Silverman and Ben Lesser (Remembrance Publishing)
THE SHAWL by Cynthia Ozick, Narrated by Yelena Shmulenson (HighBridge Audio)